Mother’s Day Letter


I couldn’t settle upon tonight’s ponder until I commented on a post by wordpresser sakshivashist. Her words allowed me to remember a letter I had written to my mother as she was packing for a move across the country.

http://cruisingthroughmylife.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/behind-locked-doors/

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, rather than ponder, I decided to share. We seem to forget that mothers, fathers, grandparents, and siblings are all people – just like us, and doing the best they can. Instead of building impossible expectations based on story book characters, lets all take a moment to see the people in our lives as beautifully flawed. The characteristic that makes us interesting, and gives dimension to what would otherwise be a flat, predictable world.

 

When I sat down to write this I thought about writing a thank you , I love you, and will miss you note. While all those are true, and go without saying, I find myself at a loss for words ,which doesn’t happen very often.

I laughed, realizing how appropriate it is, for both of us that clarity is now the dish served cold. On second thought it is presumptuous of me to assume that your clarity is as stone cold. I would be selling you short if I lumped your seemingly endless capacity to take a hit in with my new found acceptance of who I was and why I was so happy.

It’s important that you understand – you make me happy. My thank you is for making me different. For opening my eyes, for making me think, question and imagine. You planted a little seed, so long ago. Sometimes you forgot to water it, sometimes it almost died, in the end, your kindness patience, and nurturing paid off. It took most of a lifetime, yet it finally bloomed.

You had so many dreams. You pictured your life differently. You had no idea you were going to grow the perfect flower. Thank you for making me bloom, for creating something special. We’re so much alike. We’ve both made mistakes that at times crush us with their weight. I forgive you, as you have forgiven me. What’s more important is I’ve forgiven myself; you have to do the same. You need to know that there is at least one person who understands all your dusty little corners. You need to know how beautiful they are when the sunlight hits them. I doubt what I have become would have been possible without your dust bunnies in my flower pot.

Thank you for stumbling and picking yourself up. Thank you for getting a little crazy at times, and for never going completely mad. Thank you for standing by me at the darkest of times, and believing I would pull through. Thank you for hardly ever rolling your eyes when I talk politics or aliens. Thank you for teaching me that Red Winged Blackbirds only nest in bulrushes. You planted a magic bean, instead of a beanstalk, you grew me.

I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to miss you so much. I can’t imagine life without you nearby.

Pondering Wages


I`ve been so busy blowing off steam on American gun laws and crime, a blinding truth eluded me. Something so basic, it escaped consideration until tonight. Forgive me if the nuances of my point are a little rough – I`m pondering as I type. While exchanging comments with wordpresser Behind The Booze, I innocently discovered the minimum wage for employees receiving tips is $2.13 an hour. Scraping my jaw off the floor I asked if she were yanking my chain. Her assurance convinced me to do a little research. Looking back I should have picked up on this sooner; my son has an American friend who told me in the state of Washington overtime is only paid after working more than 40 hours in a week.  Her employer can legally schedule her for 3 – 12 hour shifts a week without paying a dime in overtime. That in itself was shocking; I should have realized sooner the problem ran much deeper.

Taking a crash course in American labour law is tricky. As of 2009 the federal minimum wage was set at 7.25 an hour. But wait; did I mention exemptions. Employees who receive tips have a minimum set at 2.13, theoretically they keep their tips and if they average less than the federal minimum after wage and tips combine – the employer is supposed to top it up to meet the federal standard of 7.25. The wage for `tipped`employees varies from state to state, $2.13 is the lowest. Not as low as farm workers who only earn $1.60 an hour depending on the state. It gets better! Employers not conducting interstate business, whose income is less than 500,000 a year are exempt from paying minimum wage. As are seasonal and migrant employees, students, and certain disabled persons. Holy crap! These waters are far to muddy to wade through in one sitting – my feet are barely wet, yet I`m having trouble wrapping my head around what little I know. There are state laws, federal laws, exemptions, and exclusions – a lot to sort out.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage_in_the_United_States

Well over 30 years ago I visited San Francisco for the first time. An incredibly beautiful and vibrant city, yet for the first time in my life something struck me as odd. My sub-conscious tried to make sense of it – it wasn`t seeing homeless women and families for the first time, though that was certainly a piece of the puzzle. The ah-ha moment came when it dawned on me – San Francisco was a city of the very rich and extremely poor – no middle class in sight.

Over the years since, and many American cities visited; I`ve laid eyes on the same situation, over and over again. On one of our marathon road trips we found ourselves off the main road in east St. Louis. Not an area of `projects`, but a once thriving residential neighbourhood. Neglected infrastructure – pot holes large enough to swallow a car, street lights dark, abandoned businesses, families crowding dark porches of decrepit houses to escape the stifling heat, and most surprising – an abandoned hospital; squatters had taken up residence, with bed sheets covering broken windows.

Getting back to the ponder sparked by Behind the Booze….

http://behindthebooze.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/stupid-questions-why-is-beth-so-mean/

My full on assault against the American mindset on guns and violence neglected to consider the minimum wage and convoluted labour laws. The average American has every right to be terrified of criminals – knowing this is a broad generalization, but grasping for a moment why crime might be more appealing than minimum wage – I`m thinking the lack of incentive to work, could account for oppressive crime rates.

Life is a crap shoot. Born of the wrong colour, wrong side of the tracks, or handicapped mentally or physically – odds are stacked against you. Sure, people rise above, but ponder options the majority are offered. Who can live on a minimum federal wage of $7.25 an hour. Convoluted exemptions, state vs. federal laws, and loop holes favouring business – no wonder crime looks more attractive.

My warm, fuzzy, mildly socialist Canadian view makes it difficult to comprehend unacceptable minimum wage. My part time bartenders make $16.00 an hour to start. In British Columbia the legislated minimum wage is $10.25, no ands, ifs, buts, or maybes. Time and a half is paid after 8 hours work, double time after 12,  any time a worker has less than 8 hours between shifts, or with less than 36 continuous hours free from work in a week. Even without benefits – those employed as part time or seasonal – universal, not for profit medical care treats every citizen equally.

I doubt I`ll ever be able to reconcile the legality of semi-automatic weapons, yet received a glimmer of understanding why crime is such a problem in America. Unskilled jobs in America are incapable of supporting a family, let alone any individual trying to get ahead. Our world has become unbalanced – I suggest we stop blaming violent video games, or perish the thought – working families or the lack of `God`,  and start taking a long hard look at what incentive there is for those dealt a lousy hand to get a job.

Before anyone jumps down my throat – I`m not painting everybody with the same brush by suggesting crime is the path of least resistance.  That said, pondering wages certainly expands my understanding of American problems.

minimum wage

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-united-states-is-very-different-from-its-neighbors-when-it-come-to-minimum-wage-2013-2

A – Z Poetry: P Is For Pink


In keeping with the A – Z poetry challenge; I offer Pink. Penned 40 years ago by my mother, an example of `pink prose` offered to students in her English class. So bad and unlike any of her published prose, all I can do is laugh out loud.  I`m certain she`ll crack a smile when I call her tomorrow to tell her `Pink`is public.

The summer I finally got laid, was a summer of pink lemonade.

With pink geraniums in the gin,

Pink fireflies flitting out and in.

Pink planets plunking banjo stars, with Jupiter as pink as Mars.

When rosy Venus opened up, my blushing petals like a cup,

I laughed like strawberry jello to think,

Even the panther invader was pink.

We combed our hair with pink shell combs, sunrise was pink when we went home.

I write it all down with my pink pen, because pinks been my colour ever since then.

Obviously this is not a `P`poem but a `Pink`poem; chuck me out of the A – Z challenge  with apologies for trying to slip it in. I needed a laugh and this horrible prose makes me smile.

Dark Matter Ting


On April 3 the scientific community stood up and took notice of a rather astounding bit of news released by MIT Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has detected over 400,000 positrons since 2011.

Far from being a scientist, I`ll try my best to explain why Ting is starching his shirt.

A positron is to antimatter what electrons are to matter. The AMS is designed to analyse `cosmic ray events`; a task it has completed 25 billion times in the last 18 months. Cosmic rays consist of sub-atomic particles, blasted into hyper speed by super novas and other violent cosmic happenings. Science has known for a few years that these rays contain the odd splattering of antimatter. Since the universe has very little antimatter, the question became – where were all the positrons coming from.

The conclusion points to the elusive ghost known as dark matter. Dark matter has gravity but produces no light, we know it makes up 70% of our universe. Beyond that science becomes fiction. The best theory we have is that dark matter consists of neutralino particles; collisions of these particles are creating the positrons.

A cautiously optimistic Ting expects to rule out pulsars as the only other possible source within the next year.

AMS (splash)

A new ScienceCast video explores the possibility that signs of dark matter have been detected onboard the International Space Station. Play it

Trayvon Martin for Target Practice


I just can’t help myself. No amount of willpower justifies tight lips on this news tidbit. On  Friday Sgt. Ron King  of the Port Canaveral police department in Florida, was fired after he offered a likeness of Trayvon Martin for target practice. The only saving graces being that the other officers refused to fire at them, and this disgraceful police officer lost his job.

Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old black youth, visiting his father at a gated community in Sanford, Florida. As he walked home from the corner store, bag of candy in hand, talking on his cell phone to his girlfriend; Community Watch volunteer George Zimmerman spotted him. Trayvon told his girlfriend he was scared; he was being followed and didn’t know what to do. Several 911 calls are public record, the first is Zimmerman calling police to report a suspicious thug, the second from a woman reporting gunshots with Trayvon crying for help in the background. The police clearly tell Zimmerman not to take action; undaunted it appears he appointed himself judge, jury, and ultimately executioner. Zimmerman claimed he acted in self defence – it took weeks of public outcry and media condemnation before Zimmerman was charged with a crime. The case goes to trial in June.

I realize the actions of Sgt.. King represent an isolated incident. I’m pondering Zimmerman’s mindset, being quite certain many more Americans inhabit the same head space. Listening these past months to gun advocates rationalize how guns don’t kill people, people kill people,  violent media and working parents contribute to the problem, or mental health issues need to be addressed – I wonder where the George Zimmermans of this world fit in.

I humbly offer this suggestion – children learn by example, and perhaps America needs to tighten up the practice of arming volunteers. Creating paranoia never comes with a happy ending. Try to remember how it was to be a child. Media violence isn’t the culprit – hysterical parents strike fear into hearts of the young. Keep your guns if you have to America, but keep them out of the shaking hands of zealous volunteer watch dogs.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/13/officer-accused-of-having-trayvon-martin-target/2080989/